Despite living abroad for all these years and experiencing different cuisines from all around the world, there will always be that one cuisine that I will have that occasional distinct craving for – Malaysian food.
This was my first time visiting Dapur, a small and cosy cafe tucked away along Lambs Conduit Passage in Holborn. I have indulged in plenty of traditional English afternoon teas, hence I was intrigued to try out their Malaysian Spring Afternoon Tea.
There were three seatings that day, with each session lasting two and a half hours, and we booked in for the first one at 12noon.
The long table was set and lovingly decorated with pretty flowers and dainty teacups and cutlery.
We started off with the Nasi Lemak Bungkus, while it was still warm, excitedly unwrapping the brown paper and banana leaves. You don’t often get them served wrapped up in those pyramid shaped packages, unlike back home in Malaysia, so it was a joy to enjoy these little pleasures. I remember those days that I used to drive around with dad and pick up a few packs of nasi lemak from the roadside stall for 50 cents each (FIFTY CENTS!).
As most people know, nasi lemak is an iconic Malaysian dish, and you can usually find them on the menu in most Malaysians restaurants around London, commonly served with an extra side of curry. It is often the dish that I would order during my first visit – sort of like the ‘benchmark’ dish for me!
It traditionally consists of coconut rice, slices of cucumber, roasted peanuts and deep-fried ikan bilis (anchovies), hard boiled egg, and my favourite SAMBAL chilli.
I had to control myself and hold back from finishing off that fragrant coconut rice so that I had enough space for the other food!
|Nasi Lemak Bungkus|
Roti Jala, or otherwise directly translated as ‘Net Bread’, is another popular Malaysian snack served with curry dishes. It is sort of like a pancake or crepe, except that they use coconut milk instead of cow’s milk, and they are commonly sold at the pasar malam (night market). I used to have them back home when our Malay friends or relatives held parties at their homes, or Mum also had some ‘special contacts’ where we could place personal orders to eat at home!
They go well with curries, such as this tempting bowl of chicken and potato curry.
We soon moved on to the sweeter delights served on our three tier afternoon tea stand. There was a Portuguese man working in the kitchen as well, so we were also served some freshly baked Pastel de Nata, a Portuguese egg tart pastry.
|Pastel de Nata|
Starting from the bottom tier, these little balls on the satay sticks were Jemput Jemput Pisang (fried banana balls), or as I usually call them cekodok pisang. They are a type of Malay traditional mashed banana fritters, commonly sold in street-stalls or can be found in kuih shops. Next to them were the Chicken Rendang Puffs, kind of like a mini Malaysian pie!
|Jemput Jemput Pisang|
|Chicken Rendang Puffs|
On the second tier, were the Kuih Bakar Pandan, a rich, dense custard-like baked cake, with a natural green colour from the juice of the pandan (screwpine) leaves. And next to these were little balls called Pulut Serunding – made from glutinous rice and coated with spicy dessicated coconut. Both really tasty and moreish.
|Kuih Bakar Pandan|
And finally on the top tier were the Kek Gula Hangus (directly translated as ‘burnt sugar cake’), which has a soft springy texture, and has a bit of a honeycomb look to it.
|Kek Gula Hangus|
For drinks we were served teh tarik, a hot milk tea beverage made from black tea, condensed milk and/or evaporate milk, commonly served in kopitiams in Malaysia. ‘Tarik’ means pull, the name derived from the preparation process which involves pouring and ‘pulling’ – you can search for it on Youtube if you haven’t seen it!
I remember Dad warning us not to drink too much back home to avoid getting diabetes… which is understandable due to the high sugar content. But of course this was a very rare, once in a while treat for me when enjoying Malaysian food.
It is usually served in transparent glasses or mugs, or in this case we had the option of having it the more regal way in our dainty teacups!
And finally for dessert, we finished off with Sago Gula Melaka, made from delicious chewy sago pearls drenched in rich coconut milk and sweet caramel made from palm sugar. A really refreshing yet comforting Malaysian dessert. They served them in some really cute and colourful cups, they reminded me of the vast collection that my landlady has displayed on her kitchen shelves!
Overall, it was a very pleasant dining experience, and definitely a nice change from the usual afternoon teas that I have had. Malay kuih-miuh can sometimes be a bit heavy, but the portions sizes here were just about right, and they weren’t overly sweet and sickly which you sometimes get with Western cakes.
Our hosts were very friendly and accommodating, and you always seem to have that special connection when talking to people from your home country.
A word of thanks to Sharizah and her team for all the good food and their hospitality.
I would definitely recommend booking in the next time they hold it, especially if you are craving some authentic Malay food.
And remember to go on an empty stomach.
The Cheekster, signing out x